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Violence and Society: Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is “the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm. Physical violence includes, but not limited to, scratching; pushing; shoving; throwing; grabbing; biting; choking; shaking; slapping; punching; burning; use of a weapon; and use of restraints or one’s body, size, or strength against another person” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:147). Although IPV has been around for many years, it has only become an act of crime within the last 30 years (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). Historically, police rarely made arrests pertaining to intimate partner assaults because it was thought to be considered a “private matter” within the family (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:147). Recently, due to victims’ and women’s rights groups, attitudes and policies towards IPV has changed (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). However, because intimate partner assaults tend to occur within closed doors, detecting these types of crimes can be somewhat problematic. Studies have shown that approximately only 50% of intimate partner assaults are reported to law enforcement (Alvarez and Bachman 2017).

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Alvarez and Bachman (2017:148), state that “for females, intimate partners have represented a significant proportion of all homicides against women”. In fact, in recent years, women’s intimate partners have become the most likely offenders. In contrast, men’s intimate partners have a low proportion of homicides against males (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) conducted a survey in 2010 that asked males and females of all race/ethnicities about experiencing IPV during their lifetime. According to the survey, female multiracial respondents (approximately 57%) and male American Indian and Alaskan Native respondents (approximately 45%) were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to have experienced IPV during their lifetimes (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). In contrast, Asian/Pacific Islander females and males were the least likely racial/ethnic group to experience IPV during their lifetime (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). Gender is an important factor when looking at IPV surveys. Findings from the NISVS conclude that women rather than men were more likely to be victimized by severe acts of physical violence (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). Black females and males were more than likely to experience IPV during their lifetime compared to White and Hispanic females and Males (Alvarez and Bachman 2017).

One reason one might experience intimate partner violence stems from the issue of power and dominance. Patriarchy refers to the “inequity of power held by males over females” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:155).  This theory proposes that the reason that men hold so much power over women is because it is “built into the organization of society” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:155). There is a lot of research to support this theory. For example, R. Emerson Dobash and Russell Dobash studied violent couples for over two decades. They concluded that the male batterers did not believe that their partners had the same rights as men when it came to arguing or negotiating (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). In fact, they saw verbal arguments as a “nuisance and a threat to his authority, and violence is often used to silence debate, to reassert male authority, and to deny women a voice in the affairs of daily life” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:156).

Violence against women can be both sexual and nonsexual. Rape and sexual assault is a common occurrence in cases pertaining to IPV. Similar to the patriarchy theory explained earlier, authors Alvarez and Bachman (2017) explain that power and dominance is also a strong factor as to why men rape women. Research has found that there are higher rates of rape and sexual violence in societies that women are excluded from positions of higher power (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). In the United States, studies have shown that in societies where there are higher rates of gender equality, there are lower rape rates (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). Other scholars shift their focus on the socialization process of males and females. They argue that “traditional socialization practices encourage males to associate aggression, dominance, strength, and virility with masculinity” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:208). In fact, research supports the “belief in traditional sex roles is related to attributes endorsing violence against women” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:208).

In relation to ethological and biological explanations of violence, many scholars have studied chimpanzees because humans and chimps share between 96% and 99% of the same DNA makeup (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). They found that male-to-female chimpanzee violence is very similar to human male-to-female violence (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). Researchers Wrangham and Peterson suggest that “it may best be described as battering since, as they have been observed, Chimpanzee battering and human battering are similar in three respects. First, they are both cases of predominantly male against female violence. Second, they are both instances of relationship violence; male chimpanzees batter females who are members of their community, ordinarily known to them for many years, often in contexts with nothing material, such as food or support for an ally, at stake. Third, like human battering, the battering of a female chimpanzee may take place during or be triggered by a number of superficial contexts, but the underlying issue looks to be domination or control” (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:40).

Intergenerational transmission of violence theory argues that those who experience and/or witness violence during their childhood are more likely to become violent as adults (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). This theory is based on the theoretical premises of social learning theory which states that violence is learned (Alvarez and Bachman 2017). In order to obtain a valid test of this theory, you would have to study children who were abused over their lifetimes. Then, you could determine whether they had an increased risk of engaging in violence as adults. Cathy Widom and her colleagues performed the longest and most recent ongoing study relating to this kind of theory. They found that while children who experience abuse during childhood may have a greater risk for replicating the abusive behavior, they are not predestined to act violently in adulthood (Alvarez and Bachman 2017).

One of the most significant predictors of intimate partner violence is alcohol use. Alvarez and Bachman (2017:157-158) states that “it has been reported to be a factor between 25% and 85% of assaults between intimates”. Binge alcohol use can be defined as “men who consumed 5 or more drinks in a row or women who consumed 4 or more drinks in a row (Alvarez and Bachman 2017:397). Someone who binge drinks has a greater risk of performing IPV. In fact, men who binge drink in large quantities have an increased risk of performing acts related to IPV. (Alvarez and Bachman 2017).

According to the World Health Organization, children who experience violence between parents have an increased risk of harmful drinking patterns during adulthood (2006). Thus, are more likely to become a perpetuator of IPV. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2014) conducted a study in the United States on people aged 18 years and older to measure binge drinking habits. They found that 33% of men binge drink compared to 17% of women.

In the article, “CDC’s DELTA FOCUS Program: Identifying Promising Primary Prevention Strategies for Intimate Partner Violence”, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed community and societal level prevention strategies to prevent IPV. One Delta Focus strategy is organizational adoption which promotes “the adoption of IPV and teen dating violence primary prevention practices among school-based law enforcement” (Armstead et al. 2017:11). They also want to promote IPV prevention education which increases the awareness, knowledge, or behaviors on preventing IPV (Armstead et al. 2017). One of their strategies is to educate the youth on how to be aware of the differences between a healthy relationship verses a non-healthy relationship. These strategies could help decrease and/or prevent IPV by educating the youth on how to be aware of signs that relate to IPV.

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The article, “Applying a Strengths-Based Psychoeducational Model of Rehabilitation to the Treatment of Intimate Partner Violence: Program Theory and Logic Model”, describes the theoretical development of an intimate partner violence and abuse (IPVA) prevention program which is a combination of solution-focused brief therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy methods. Both therapy methods are helpful to someone who may have experienced IPV. Using the logic model, one of their solutions to prevent IPVA is an approach that “adopts a collaborative egalitarian stance with group members. Individuals will change if they are directly accountable for the changes made” (Bowen, Walker, and Holdsworth 2018:511). They also want to increase consequential thinking and self-control. In order to stop IPVA from occuring, offenders must be able to “control their responses to conflict and reduce impulsive behaviors” (Bowen et al. 2018:511). Another goal is to reduce anger-related cognitions and behaviors. Anger is a significant risk factor for IPVA. To stop and prevent IPVA, offenders need to “understand the role of anger in their behaviors, and the thoughts and beliefs that enable anger to led to violence and abuse” (Bowen et al. 2018:512). In order for this goal to succeed, activities such as focusing on the absence or reduction of anger will be given. They will help the offender identify their own personal solutions for dealing with anger (Bowen et al. 2018). “Focusing the client’s attention to these situations enables clients to gain insight into how they have controlled their behavior in the past and therefore how they can control their behavior in the future” (Bowen et al. 2018:508).

Another solution to prevent IPV caused from alcohol use is to reduce the availability and cost of alcohol. Theoretically, if we restrict the availability of alcohol to a specific day and time, this could decrease the overall rate of alcohol-related violence. Treatment for alcohol use disorders can also be an effective solution to prevent alcohol-related violence.

Alvarez, Alex, and Ronet Bachman. 2017. Violence: the enduring problem. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Armstead, Theresa L., Kristen Rambo, Megan Kearns, Kathryn M. Jones, Jenny Dills, and Pamela Brown. 2017. “CDC’s DELTA FOCUS Program: Identifying Promising Primary Prevention Strategies for Intimate Partner Violence”. Journal of Women’s Health 26:9-11.

Bowen, Erica, Kate Walker, and Emma Holdsworth. 2018. “Applying a Strengths-Based Psychoeducational Model of Rehabilitation to the Treatment of Intimate Partner Violence: Program Theory and Logic Model”. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 63(3):500-517.

Niolon, Phyllis H., Megan Kearns, Jenny Dills, Kristen Rambo, Shalon Irving, Theresa L. Armstead, and Leah Gilbert. 2017. “Preventing Intimate Partner Violence Across the Lifespan: A Technical Package of Programs, Policies, and Practices”.



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